Fathers' expectations and experiences of childbirth : implications for postnatal adjustment
Objectives: This study aimed to explore the experiences of a group of first time
fathers during the transition to parenthood, and identify factors which predict paternal
adjustment postpartum. The transactional model of stress and coping (Lazarus &
Folkman, 1984) was used as a framework to investigate the relationships between
mood, coping strategies, social support, expectations and experiences of childbirth
antepartum and six weeks after the birth.
Design: This was a prospective, postal questionnaire study.
Methods: Thirty five prospective fathers and their partners were recruited through
parent education classes; data are reported for 26 of these. Fathers completed
questionnaires during the third trimester of pregnancy, immediately following the birth
and six weeks postpartum. Mothers' postnatal depression scores were obtained
directly from health visitors. Adaptation to parenthood was considered in terms of
reported paternal anxiety, depression and parenting stress.
Results: The study found evidence of clinically significant levels of anxiety
antepartum, which decreased following the birth. Fathers reported their experience of
childbirth to be more positive than they had expected, and this was largely independent
of obstetric variables. Preliminary evidence suggests problem-focused coping strategies
were associated with more negative experiences of childbirth. Adaptation to
parenthood was best predicted by antenatal mood.
Conclusions: The implications of maladaptive and adaptive coping strategies for
antenatal interventions are discussed and directions for future research outlined.
Longer term follow up is required to explore the observed association between
parenting stress, obstetric variables and experiences of childbirth